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Full Access Rethinking ‘Bodenständigkeit’ in the Technological Age

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Rethinking ‘Bodenständigkeit’ in the Technological Age

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Abstract Although the concept of “groundedness/autochthony” (Bodenständigkeit) in Heidegger’s writings receives far less scholarly attention than, for example, that of “releasement” (Gelassenheit), a careful examination of the famous “Gelassenheit” speech of 1955 demonstrates that, in fact, Bodenständigkeit is the core concept around which everything else turns. Moreover, in the “Gelassenheit” speech and the writings on Hebel that follow, Heidegger understands Bodenständigkeit to be, fundamentally, something made possible by language in its particularities of tradition and locale. Thus, there is an intriguing continuity of meaning between that concept and the concept as it was used phenomenologically in his writings from the summer 1924 course up to Sein und Zeit.

1. Bambach Charles Heidegger’s Roots: Nietzsche, National Socialism and the Greeks 2003 Ithaca Cornell University Press
2. Bloch Ernst Plaice Neville , Plaice Stephen Heritage of Our Times 1991 Berkeley University of California Press
3. Caputo John Demythologizing Heidegger 1993 Bloomington Indiana University Press
4. Davis Bret Heidegger and the Will: On the Way to Gelassenheit 2007 Evanston, IL Northwestern University Press
5. De Beistegui Miguel The New Heidegger. 2005 New York Continuum
6. Denker Alfred Historical Dictionary of Heidegger’s Philosophy 2000 Lanham, MD The Scarecrow Press
7. Geiman Clare Pearson Polt Richard , Fried Gregory "“Heidegger’s Antigones.”" A Companion to Heidegger’s “Introduction to Metaphysics” 2001 New Haven Yale University Press 161 182
8. Hebel Johan Peter Altwegg Wilhelm Werke 1943 Zurich Atlantis 3 vols
9. Kiesel Theodore , Sheehan Thomas Becoming Heidegger: On the Trail of His Early Writings, 1910–1927. 2007 Evanston Northwestern University Press
10. Kisiel Theodore "“Situating Rhetorical Politics in Heidegger’s Protopractical Ontology.”" International Journal of Philosophical Studies 2000 Vol 8 185 208
11. Kisiel Theodore Raffoul Francois , Pettigrew David "“In the Middle of Heidegger’s Three Concepts of the Political.”" Heidegger and Practical Philosophy 2002 Albany State University of New York Press 135 158
12. McNeill Will Risser James "“ Heimat: Heidegger on the Threshold.”" Heidegger Toward the Turn: Essays on the Work of the 1930s 1999 Albany State University of New York Press 319 349
13. Schürmann Reiner Meister Eckhart: Mystic and Philosopher 1978 Bloomington Indiana University Press
14. Scott Charles E. "“Heidegger’s Practical Politics: Of Time and the River.”" Heidegger and Practical Philosophy 173 190
15. Stassen Manfred Heidegger Martin "Introduction to Philosophical and Political Writings " 2003 New York Continuum
16. FN1 1)In what follows I shall cite the German text in parentheses after quotations—most often referencing the German text as presented in Heidegger’s collected works, or Gesamtausgabe( GA) (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1976ff.), indicating volume and page number. However, there are additional German texts that will be cited, for example, Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit( SZ), 12th ed. (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1972); Denkerfahrungen 1910–1976( DE), ed. Hermann Heidegger (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1983); and Hebel der Hausfreund( HdH), 5th ed. (Pfüllingen: Günther Neske, 1985). Although these texts are cited, unless indicated otherwise, translations of Heidegger in this article are my own. At times I have altered somewhat the published translations of Heidegger from which I quote.
17. FN2 2)A note on translation: there is no particularly good English equivalent of the German word, Bodenständigkeit, just as there is there is no particularly good English equivalent of Gelassenheit. The difficulty involved in translating Bodenständigkeitis shown by the fact that it is rendered in English with the words, “autochthony,” “subsistence,” “indigenous character,” “native ground,” “ground-hold,” “groundedness,” “rootedness” or “rootedness in the soil”—all of which are correct, to be sure, though each falls short in some specific way. In certain contexts, something like “rootedness” seems the best choice and for this reason has been chosen by translators, but it misleadingly suggests that Heidegger is using one of the many words he uses with the root, Wurzel, “root”—such as Verwurzelung, Entwurzelung, etc. “Autochthony” is the preferred translation by Alfred Denker, Theodore Kisiel, and Joan Stambaugh; this rendering has the advantage and disadvantage of being a word seldom ever used in English—which is an advantage, certainly, inasmuch as it thereby catches the attention of the reader as a concept worthy of noting; the disadvantage, however, is that the adjective, “autochthonous” does not parallel the ordinariness of bodenständigin German, which means something more like “native” or “grounded” or “down to earth” in English. Schürmann’s “ground-hold” has what may be the greater advantage of being a word never used in English—although, conversely, it has no adjectival form whatsoever. In what follows I have opted to vary the translation of Bodenständigkeitin cases where I do not simply leave it untranslated.
18. FN3 3)It is a sign of how central the concept Bodenständigkeitis to Heidegger’s concerns in that essay that the word Bodenständigkeit, along with other forms of Boden(e.g., “Heimatboden,” etc.), appear more than two dozen times in a thirteen-page essay.
19. FN4 4)Bambach’s translation of Hebel, in Heidegger’s Roots, 330. For complete bibliographic information, see Works Cited at the end of this essay.
20. FN5 5)Notice that, in the last sentence, he glosses what he otherwise always calls “ Bodenständigkeit” as Urwüchsigkeit, which signifies “originality,” “earthiness,” “naturalness,” “nativeness,” “ruggedness,” “unaffectedness,” “sturdiness”—and which, therefore, parallels “ Bodenständigkeit” in its range of meanings.
21. FN6 6)On the complicated relationship between Heidegger’s own manuscripts and the lecture course in its edited form, see the Editor’s Afterword, by Mark Michalski, to volume 18 of the Gesamtausgabe.
22. FN7 7)“Being-There and Being-True According to Aristotle,” in Becoming Heidegger, ed. T. Kisiel and T. Sheehan, 219–20. On the relative chronology of the 1924 lecture course and the essay “Being-There and Being-True According to Aristotle,” see the discussion in Kisiel, “Situating Rhetorical Politics in Heidegger’s Protopractical Ontology,” 189–90.
23. FN8 8)“Being-There and Being-True According to Aristotle,” 225.
24. FN9 9)English translation by Joan Stambaugh (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1996). See also his claim in Being and Time: “The tradition uproots the historicity of Dasein to such a degree that it only takes an interest in the manifold forms of possible types, directions, and standpoints of philosophizing in the most remote and strangest cultures, and with this interest tries to veil its own groundlessness [ Die Tradition entwurzelt die Geschichtlichkeit des Daseins so weit, daß es sich nur noch im Interesse an der Vielgestaltigkeit möglicher Typen, Richtungen, Standpunkte des Philosophierens in den entlegensten und fremdesten Kulturen bewegt und mit diesem Interesse die eigene Bodenlosigkeit zu verhüllen sucht]” ( SZ, 21).
25. FN10 10)The English translation is that by G. Fried and R. Polt (London: Yale University, 2000), 42. Bambach’s comment is apt: “The task of ontology is to restore historical rootedness to the tradition of Western thinking, to win back or recuperate from the ingrained habits of centuries-long philosophical practice the sense of original wonderment that pervaded early Greek theoria. In this recuperation of Greek antiquity amidst the free-floating speculation of contemporary life, Heidegger finds an originary ground in which to think” ( Heidegger’s Roots, 23).
26. FN11 11)Translated by Thomas J. Sheehan as “Why Do I Stay in the Provinces?,” in Martin Heidegger, Philosophical and Political Writings, ed. Manfred Stassen (New York: Continuum, 2003).
27. FN12 12)I have altered the English translation by Manfred Stassen in Heidegger, Philosophical and Political Writings. This letter was first published in Die Zeit, December 22, 1989, in an article titled, “Die Verjudung des deutschen Geistes: Ein unbekannter Brief Heideggers,” by Ulrich Sieg. The longer passage from which the quotation is taken reads as follows: “Was ich in meinem Zeugnis nur indirekt andeuten konnte, darf ich hier deutlicher sagen: es geht um nichts Geringeres als um die unaufschiebbare Besinnung darauf, daß wir vor der Wahl stehen, unserem deutschen Geistesleben wieder echte bodenständige Kräfte und Erzieher zuzuführen oder es der wachsenden Verjudung im weiteren u engeren Sinne endgültig auszuliefern. Wir werden den Weg nur zurückfinden, wenn wir imstande sind, ohne Hetze und unfruchtbare Auseinandersetzung, frischen Kräften zur Entfaltung zu verhelfen. Mit Rücksicht auf dieses große Ziel wäre ich besonders dankbar, wenn Herrn Baumgarten, den ich mir zu meinem Assistenten ausersehen habe, durch ein Stipendium geholfen werden könnte.”
28. FN13 13)I take his remarks in the letter to indicate the “primitive nationalism” that Hans Jonas observed: “[Y]es, a cerain ‘blood-and-soil’ point of view was always there: [Heidegger] emphasized his Black Forest roots a great deal; I mean his skiing and the ski cabin up in Todtnauberg. . . . [I]t also had something to do with his ideological affirmation: one had to be close to nature, and so on. And certain remarks, also ones he sometimes made about the French, showed a sort of (how could I say it?) primitive nationalism” (quoted in Miguel de Beistegui, The New Heidegger[New York: Continuum, 2005], 168).
29. FN14 14)English translation by Manfred Stassen may be found in Heidegger, Philosophical and Political Writings, 2–11.
30. FN15 15)Bambach, Heidegger’s Roots, 332.
31. FN16 16)Schürmann, Meister Eckhart, 199. Schürmann fleshes out this idea a bit further when he comments: “ ‘Mystery is the fatherland’ . . . yields no philosophical thesis. It says that as long as man holds things in his obstinate disposition, as long as his thinking remains calculative, he errs in the quest for a presence that would be everlasting, fulfilling, grounding—a presence understood as durable ( beständiges Anwesen)” (199). Clearly one can embrace this part of Heidegger’s thinking in the “Gelassenheit” essay while taking issue with what some commentators have called Heidegger’s “provincialism,” as Schürmann himself does when he writes: “We need not be content with Heidegger’s rural idyll, in which man’s ground is his fields, and his native land the familiar countryside in which he feels at home. As the country-born has ‘his’ plot, so the city-born has ‘his’ neighborhood. From this we understand what it means to have a horizon,” p. 198.
32. FN17 17)Will McNeill, “ Heimat: Heidegger on the Threshold,” 319–20.
33. FN18 18)McNeill, ibid., 327. We should note that Heidegger’s nostalgia need not have the significance that Manfred Stassen finds in it when he writes: “Heidegger’s thinking is characterized by a profound provincial and parochial chauvinism. . . . Heimat, Blut und Bodenand so forth are constitutive for language and culture, and, above all, philosophy or rather das Denken. Only the conservation of these earth-bound forces leads to authentic thinking” (see Stassen’s Introduction to Heidegger, Philosophical and Political Writings, xx).
34. FN19 19)McNeill, “Heimat”, 328. Immediately following the sentences quoted above, McNeill poses a question that could very well be directed to Bambach’s interpretation: “Indeed, is not the very worryconcerning any emphasis on the significance of particularity already indicative of a (quasi-) metaphysical or technological thinking, a thinking that is already persuaded of the priority of a universalizing, formalizing interpretation of the world?”
35. FN20 20)The volume is Alemannenland: Ein Buch von Volkstum und Sendung, ed. Franz Kerber (Stuttgart: Engelhorns, 1937).
36. FN21 21)Just how concurrently Heidegger wrote the lecture course, The Principle of Reason, and his “Gelassenheit” speech is made clear in his letters to his wife in October 1955, where, in more than one letter, he remarks that he is working on these texts over the same stretch of time (see Martin Heidegger, Letters to his Wife, 1915–1970, ed. Gertrud Heidegger, trans. R. D. V. Glasgow [London: Polity, 2008], 249–50) and The Principle of Reason, trans. Reginald Lilly [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991]; originally published as Der Satz vom Grund[Pfullingen: Gunther Neske, 1957]).
37. FN22 22)Then, after talking about TV, radio, newspapers, etc., Heidegger writes: “The word ‘Information’—which is not a word of German provenance—speaks more clearly here insofar as it means, on the one hand, the instant news and reporting that, on the other hand and at the same time, have taken over the ceaseless molding/forming of the reader and listener” ( GA10: 45; Lilly translation, 29).
38. FN23 23)On this point, see his famous lines from the “Letter on Humanism” (1947): “Das Sein ist die Hut, die den Menschen in seinem ek-sistenten Wesen dergestalt zu ihrer Wahrheit behütet, daß sie die Ek-sistenz in der Sprache behaust. Darum ist die Sprache zumal das Haus des Seins und die Behausung des Menschenwesens. Nur weil die Sprache des Wesens des Menschen ist, können die geschichtlichen Menschentümer und Menschen in ihrer Sprache nicht zu Hause sein, so daß sie ihnen zum Gehäuse ihrer Machenschaften wird” (“Brief über den ‘Humanismus,’ ” [ GA9: 361]).
39. FN24 24)Caputo, Demythologizing Heidegger, 118.
40. FN25 25)An earlier version of this essay was presented in Messkirch, Germany, at a conference titled, “Martin Heidegger: Natur, Kunst, Technik,” May 2011. I am indebted to the conference organizers, Alfred Denker and Holger Zaborowski, as well as to fellow conferees who commented on the earlier version of the essay—above all, to Julia Davis, Jeffrey Gower, and Theodore Kisiel.

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Affiliations: 1: University of Colorado Denver


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